Food Chronicles: Pan De Muerto

Yesterday and today are the Dias de los Muertos, or Days of the Dead in Mexico, or you may know November 1st as All Saints Day. Either way they occur right after Halloween and during high school I used to love celebrating them almost more than Halloween itself. See to some, Halloween is just one day out of the year – to me it is practically a month long holiday. You have All Hallows Eve or Halloween, Devil’s Night, Dias de los Muertos, All Saints Day and even Samhain (if you are Neo-Pagan), just so many cultures celebrate similar holidays around the same stretch of days is amazing to me and awesome!

To celebrate dia dos de los Muertos I wanted to share the recipe for Pan de Meurto, or Bread of the Dead. I used to make this with my mom during high school – she loved the anise in it. We’d make so much she’d freeze loaves to save for later in the year. Now just so you know, I’m not hispanic in any way shape or form – proud Italian & Irish girl, but I love the Latin culture!

Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead)

Photo courtesy Three Clever Sisters.

• 1/4 cup milk
• 1/4 cup (half a stick) margarine or butter, cut into 8 pieces
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 package active dry yeast
• 1/4 cup very warm water
• 2 eggs
• 3 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
• 1/2 teaspoon anise seed
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 2 teaspoons sugar


Bring milk to boil and remove from heat. Stir in margarine or butter, 1/4 cup sugar and salt.

In large bowl, mix yeast with warm water until dissolved and let stand 5 minutes. Add the milk mixture.

Separate the yolk and white of one egg. Add the yolk to the yeast mixture, but save the white for later. Now add flour to the yeast and egg. Blend well until dough ball is formed.

Flour a pastry board or work surface very well and place the dough in center. Knead until smooth. Return to large bowl and cover with dish towel. Let rise in warm place for 90 minutes. Meanwhile, grease a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Knead dough again on floured surface. Now divide the dough into fourths and set one fourth aside. Roll the remaining 3 pieces into “ropes.”

On greased baking sheet, pinch 3 rope ends together and braid. Finish by pinching ends together on opposite side. Divide the remaining dough in half and form 2 “bones.” Cross and lay them atop braided loaf.

Cover bread with dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix anise seed, cinnamon and 2 teaspoons sugar together. In another bowl, beat egg white lightly.

When 30 minutes are up, brush top of bread with egg white and sprinkle with sugar mixture, except on cross bones. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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